Five of the Best Budget Destinations in Europe

Europe is generally considered a fairly expensive continent to travel, not just by backpackers but also by those looking for more short term travels. Although far pricier in general than, say, South East Asia, the steady increase in budget airline routes, and the falling euro, mean it’s actually getting easier to find cheap holidays in Europe – and there are still some budget-friendly destinations which are well worth exploring. Whether you’re backpacking Europe or looking for an affordable luxury break, travelling this continent doesn’t have to break the bank – if you look at the right places!

Here’s my round up of five of the best budget destinations in Europe…

Poland

cheap europe holidays 2015

Image by Nico Trinkhaus on Flickr

Cheap flights, cheap accommodation, cheap food… but also beautiful historic cities, Gothic churches, and a thriving Bohemian scene in capital Krakow, Poland is a frequently overlooked travel destination in Europe. Krakow boasts offbeat galleries and trendy restaurants, plus an old town to rival the one in Prague, all overlooked by a hilltop castle, while Warsaw is home to outstanding neoclassical architecture, an emerging and experimental food scene, and lively nightlife. Or there’s Gdansk, one of the best hidden European cities that’s all too often overlooked.

Romania

cheap europe holidays 2015

Image by A H T on Flickr

Listed among the Lonely Planet’s Top Ten Budget Destinations for 2015, Romania is an increasingly popular option in the famously budget region of Eastern Europe. Better connections with budget airlines, falling hotel and hostel prices, and surprisingly good weather make Romania a top option for a budget summer holiday this year. From the forested region of Transylvania and the clifftop Bran Castle of Dracula lore, to the picturesque city of Bucharest – one of the cheapest cities in Europe – this is a great place to explore. Don’t miss the Carpathian Mountains, perfect for hiking, climbing, skiing and, best of all, natural thermal spas.

Croatia

cheap europe holidays 2015

Image by MacPepper on Flickr

Recently, Croatia has been “re-discovered” as a tourism hot spot, thanks to it’s incredible scenery and sublime coastline. The capital city of Zagreb ranks 12th on the Europe Backpacker Index of the cheapest cities in Europe, while the coastline remains fairly budget-friendly when compared with other European destinations. With a cuisine heavily influenced by neighbouring Italy, breathtaking natural scenery in the many national parks, and plenty of fab outdoor activities, Croatia is a pretty big box-ticker for budget travellers of all kinds.

Portugal

cheap europe holidays 2015

Image by Luis Ascenso Photography on Flickr

Ranking fifth on the Telegraph’s ten cheapest European city breaks, capital city Lisbon is a surprisingly cheap destination in Europe, where a cup of coffee will set you back just £0.58. While it may not be suited to backpackers, Portugal is a place where you can find top-end hotels and luxury holidays at significantly lower prices than in countries like Italy and France, while an incredible cuisine and a great wine scene make this a great country to explore.

Greece

cheap europe holidays 2015

Image by Mariusz Kluzniak on Flickr

Although Greece’s economy is recovering, the country is still far cheaper than many others in Europe, with relatively low room rates and incredibly low prices for food and drink. I was in Athens in February this year, and the prices of food blew me away! Santorini in particular, and the Greek islands in general, are very affordable, particularly if you’re happy to cut back on a few extras like sea views. Plus, the incredible landscapes, and some of the best beaches in Europe, make Greece a great holiday destination.

Where’s the cheapest place you’ve travelled to in Europe? Recommendations are very welcome – please leave a comment!

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Five of the Best Budget Destinations in Europe for 2015

About Emily Luxton

An award-winning writer and travel blogger on a mission to explore the world through deeper, more intelligent travel. Seeking out adventure, cultural exchanges, food experiences and more as she attempts to get to know the world. Lover of the great outdoors, sunsets, good food, and the odd bit of luxury!

29 Comments

  1. Great post! I am definitely going to have to check out Croatia this summer. It has been on my list for ages!

  2. I’d definitely recommend Serbia, probably instead of Poland, which is starting to see a lot of backpack traffic and make the most of it. Serbia, however, is still only starting to cotton on to tourism. It means less services, but it’s a fantastic experience and so so cheap!
    Word on the ground in Croatia is that it’s noticeably more expensive than it was a few years ago because it’s becoming such a popular destination. My pick over Croatia would be popping down the coast to Montenegro – much much cheaper, less crowded and absolutely beautiful. Especially up in the mountains.

    • Ooh great tips, thank you! Although Poland is probably getting more backpackers, it’s still a very cheap destination – I actually chose it because two of Poland’s major cities are in the top ten of the cheapest cities on Price of Travel’s European Backpacker Index (http://www.priceoftravel.com/1979/european-backpacker-index/). Zagreb and Split in Croatia also rank pretty highly on the list. Probably is picking up in terms of price, especially in Dubrovnik which is very popular, but still much cheaper by European standards – and there are lots of ‘undiscovered’ places outside of the major cities 🙂

      I’ve heard a lot of great things about Montenegro so that sounds like a good option! And Belgrade in Serbia came 5th on the Backpacker Index so that’s obviously a great place for backpackers!

  3. ESTONIA, has to be there, although Poland is the most similar, I would still include that. I never found Croatoia so cheap myself. Romania was amazingly cheap aftre the Caucesco regime fell, I was there the following winter, and a beer was 1 penny (sterling)

    • Woah that is cheap!! I was going by cities that were on the Backpackers cheapest cities list (the link is in the article), and since there were two Croatian cities high on that list I thought it made sense to include it! I think outside of the touristy bits most parts of Croatia are still very cheap!

  4. I happen to be in Croatia now. While it is cheap, the research I have done on the other Balkan countries finds them to be cheaper, and the locals agree with me. However the cheapest flights are into Croatia, specifically Pula and Osijek, and you can get cheap ferries from Italy. But the people from Georgia I have met in my travels have convinced me they have the cheapest country to travel to. I’ll have to find that out for myself as soon as I can. And do get to Croatia as soon as you can. I just went through the Plitvice Lakes today and I can say they are the most beautiful place I have traveled to yet.

    • Excellent, thanks for the input! I’m actually headed there at the end of July for a week long blog trip which should be great fun. I can’t wait! Such a beautiful country! It’s probably not the cheapest any more but certainly one of the cheaper ones in Europe still, especially by comparison to places like Italy and Spain which get visited a lot more, and with the cheaper flights its definitely a good place for a budget trip – although perhaps not by backpacker standards!

  5. We spent 5 weeks in Split earlier this year and while it is less expensive than most western European countries I would agree that it is no longer cheap. I would definitely add Hungary to the list though. We really loved Budapest and found it to be quite reasonable.

    • Awesome, thanks for the input!! A lot of people are staying that Croatia isn’t cheap anymore – but I think it still makes a good budget alternative to nearby countries like Italy and France. I’m thinking more about budget European holidays, places where you can get more for your money on a holiday or where (like Portugal) ‘expensive’ things like luxury hotels are cheaper than across the rest of the continent – and again these are just five of the best, not the five cheapest.

      Would you say Croatia is still relatively cheap in terms of those standards, or is it generally quite expensive now? Also – do you know what prices were like outside of Split and in the smaller towns or on the coast at all? I’m curious to know more about it as I’m off to Croatia at the end of July!!

  6. Hi Emily,

    I’ve just got back from Budapest and could not believe how cheap it was. We were paying just over £1 a pint which is my book is amazing. Went to Riga in Latvia a few years ago and that was pretty cheap too. I’m looking at Bucharest for a trip early next year and I’m chuffed it’s on your list.

    • Wow that is cheap! I’m thinking I should write a follow up post just about the cheapest places to drink in Europe as that seems to be a guideline for many people haha!!

      From what I can tell, Bucharest (and Romania in general) is very cheap, so that should be great. Any ideas when you’ll be going?

  7. Shame on me! I haven’t visited any of these and I’m about to change continent. I visited the Spanish inlands where there were not many tourists and that is amazingly cheap as well.

    • I’ve heard that about inland Spain, would love to visit myself. Even Costa Brava, which gets a lot of tourism, surprised me by how cheap it was when I visited in May (especially the public buses), so I can imagine the parts that are tourist-free are great for saving money 🙂

  8. I’m currently living/traveling in Czech Republic, which I’ve found to be one of the cheapest European countries for food, drink, basic accommodation, and travel. But only if you avoid Prague. Fantastic opportunities for cycling, hiking, swimming too.

    • Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve heard the same about the Czech Republic – cheap except for Prague! Going to have to go myself soon before the rest of the country gets taken over by tourists 🙂

  9. Hey Emily, how are you? We met in Costa Brava About this post: Greece can be a budget destination for sure but Santorini (which is in the picture) is definitely not. Okay, there are some places where you can drink half a liter of wine for only 3 euro, but also a lot of places where you pay 6 euro for a glass! Food not very cheap either. BUT it sure is an amazing place where you have to go once in your live. I just came back and posted a photoblog about it. I you haven’t been there before, you want to go for sure. 😉

  10. Croatia the same. It can be very cheap, but when you go to Dubrovnik it’s not cheap at all inless you only wat pizza. But again, also this is a place you just have to see. It’s beautiful!

    Of all these countries I think Spain is still a good one. Beautiful and cheap. I went three times this year (after our trip two times more, a bit further south, to Valencia and Costa Blanca), and as you said even in turistic areas you can be surprised, sometimes you only have to go a little bit to the right or left.

    • Hi Denise! So nice to hear from you on my blog 🙂 How are you?

      I’ve not been to Santorini myself but used the pic because that was the prettiest one that came up when I searched for ‘Greece’. The cities in Greece that I’ve visited recently have been crazy cheap though because of the economic crash and I have a feeling that even Santorini and other big tourist destinations will be cheaper than ever – even if they’re still pricier than other parts of Greece. For a lot of these countries, especially Croatia, the big cities are definitely not as cheap as the rest of the country.

      I’m in Croatia at the moment though touring Istria and from what I’ve seen of the prices at restaurants and things this is a place where you can take a fairly extravagant holiday on a budget! It’s so beautiful and there are lots of relatively undiscovered small towns which make amazing destinations – plus lots of agritourism restaurants where you can eat homemade food fresh from the farm. It’s so good here and all you have to do is get our of the cities and explore!

  11. All sound delightful! I don’t know which one to choose first 😉

  12. Portugal is absolutely on my list for this year, but since they are all cheap perhaps I will just have to visit them all 😉

    I was in the Czech Republic early last year and found that to be pretty cheap!

    Emma x

    • Ah I keep hearing great things about the prices in the Czech Republic. I’m hoping to make it there later this year – planning more of Europe for Summer I think! I’ll do a revised post once I’ve done some more travelling! x

  13. Top list, although I found Athens far more expensive than I was expecting. As many others have mentioned Czech Republic is great value, as is Slovakia for the most part. The price difference between these two and neighbouring Austria is nuts.

    Also Bosnia Herzegovina and Montenegro are great alternatives for Croatia as they are even cheaper with smaller crowds and still plenty of similar things to do and see.

    Dying to go to Romania, it being cheap makes it even more enticing.

    • Thanks David 🙂 When were you in Athens? I was there last year and found it very cheap, but perhaps the prices are creeping back up?

      I keep hearing amazing things about Romania. A lot of travel bloggers have settled there or spent time there to save money, rent and food is cheap and apparently the internet is crazy fast!

  14. I highly recommend Portugal, particularly during low season. I spent January and February there, and it was fantastic. Much more affordable its neighbor, Spain. Lots to see and do, delicious food at great prices, and the wine is awesome. I never spent more than 2 Euros on a bottle,

    • Where in Spain did you find wine for 2 Euros a bottle?! I need to find this place. I’ve been to a few parts of Spain and they are pretty cheap but I’ve never found wine that cheap 🙂

  15. Hey Emily, nice post! I must admit that Greece can be cheap when it comes to having food and drinks outside, if you don’t go to the most touristic places or like the mainland. But the rest is just as expensive as other countries. That is why they have such a hard time at the moment. Supermarkets are of the same price as in the Netherlands for example, crazy if you think they earn 1/3 of a Dutch salary…
    And I saw someone already suggested Serbia, I agree! It is really cheap and SO beautiful. The people are really kind and helpful, more than Hungary in my experience, although they are so poor.

    Romania is still on my list as well but haven’t been there yet. And Portugal well: awesome country and like Spain it can be cheap if you find the right spots yes!

    I must admit I never thought yet of writing about places I haven’t visited myself, but I see you made a very nice post so I got some inspiration 🙂 Thanks!!! And good luck…

    • Hi Sira! Thanks for commenting 🙂 I know it seems odd to write about places I’ve not been to, but this was sort of an inspiration piece for me too, doing some research into the places where you can get a good quality holiday for less! I found a lot of good sources which show which cities/destinations in Europe are cheaper and went from those!

      As for Greece, well, it’s definitely complicated there, and I know that the cost of living for locals maybe isn’t as cheap as it could be given the wages etc. But, in terms of a holiday there, I found that the food and drink in most restaurants was really reasonably priced, as were many of the hotels (especially in the mainland and the less visited places). I’ve visited Greece twice (and I’m going back next week) so I’m definitely talking from experience here 🙂 Oh, and the food at markets (rather than supermarkets) was really well priced, I think that’s where most locals do their shopping 😉

      Serbia sounds really interesting, quite a lot of people have recommended it to me lately. It’s definitely on my own personal list 🙂

      Thanks again for commenting!

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